Quote of the day: on uniforms and uniqueness

“When I started my music career, I was a maid. I used to clean houses. My mother was a proud janitor. My stepfather, who raised me like his very own, worked at the post office and my father was a trashman. They all wore uniforms and that’s why I stand here today, in my black and white, and I wear my uniform to honor them.

This is a reminder that I have work to do. I have people to uplift. I have people to inspire. And today, I wear my uniform proudly as a Cover Girl. I want to be clear, young girls, I didn’t have to change who I was to become a Cover Girl. I didn’t have to become perfect because I’ve learned throughout my journey that perfection is the enemy of greatness.

Embrace what makes you unique, even if it makes others uncomfortable.”

– Janelle Monáe via Obvious Magazine

On fa(t)shion blogging, dead conversations, and the potential for transformation

Window display at my favorite jewelry store in Boston, So Good.

I recently came across a great piece by Arij Riahi at The Closet Feminist, Fashion blogging is not dead: our conversations are.

Arij analyzes the critiques of fa(t)shion blogging, which fall into two camps: elitists who look back fondly on the days when fashion was less accessible, and those who are dismayed by the increasing commercialization and depoliticization of the fashion blogging world. (See Natalie Perkins’ critique of fatshion blogging and the conversations it started.)

They note a similar evolution in the world of DIY blogs, including bloggers who sell DIY kits that cost as much as the item itself, and make an important point:

I question…how an idea that grew out of a rejection of mainstream capitalist consumerism could turn so easily into mainstream capitalist consumerism.

Capitalism co-opts everything it touches.

Including resistance to itself.

It’s pervasive and insidious, and incredibly hard to fight.

Arij continues:

I do find that there are a lot of larger, political issues in fashion– I like your camouflage coat, but I’d also like a conversation about the ethics of wearing military apparel. I don’t mind your luxury items, but I want to find out if it is craft(hu)manship or branding. I prefer a full tutorial, because I enjoy the agency that comes with wearing my own skirt. I have questions about second-hand clothing and the effect it has on African textile markets. I want to have these conversations, but I can’t find many spaces for them online.

I think that by narrowing down our fashion conversations, we miss the opportunity of reclaiming the body -the individual and the collective one- and highlighting how its presence, movement, and adornment is as an act of political resistance– not a commodity.

I agree 200%. I’ve found a few blogs that take on the ethics and politics of fashion, but not enough. I want more of these conversations. I’m thankful Arij is starting one.

I also I wonder if the commercialization of blogging is partly a symptom of our post-employment economy: people are trying to make ends meet however they can, including monetizing things like blogs that used to be non-commercial. And professional blogging can seem like a glamorous alternative to dead-end jobs, although it’s ultimately unsustainable for all but a small minority.

Of course, this commercialization is driven by corporations–but maybe they’d be less successful at co-opting everything if people had better job options. Maybe more people would be content to use their blogs for personal reflections if they could rely on well-paying, secure jobs to pay their rent.

And so the system replicates itself.

How do we break the cycle? How do we keep these important conversations going in a system that wants to co-opt and neutralize them? How can we, as fa(t)shion bloggers, get back to our radical roots?

I don’t know exactly how we can do it, but I hope we are on the brink of a transformation, a tiny part of the Great Turning that’s gathering steam throughout the world.

I’ll be right here, waving my sparkly pom-poms for the revolution.

I believe in fashion.

When I first started reading Web Smith’s piece “The Lost Art of Buying Clothing,” I thought I’d agree with most of it. I’m all for making more durable clothing (especially leggings/pants/shorts that don’t wear out in the thighs–are you listening, plus size clothing manufacturers?). I’m all for moving from the unsustainable fast fashion model to a slower one, one that pays its workers a living wage and doesn’t wreck the planet.

But then I got to this part:

But what about the changing of styles? Rules of thumb: (1) if you don’t think you’d wear it in seven years, you may want to put it back (2) if the tailoring that you desire is too “in”, it may be out in a few years (3) and some patterns and colors will remain near the top for a lifetime. See, I do not believe in fashion. I do believe in amazing pieces that remain timeless through the ages.

This is where I disagree.

I believe in fashion.

I believe in playing dress-up, playing with color, texture, pattern, proportion.

I believe in fashion as an accessible art form.

I believe in fashion as a form of self-expression that changes with me. I’m not the same person I was seven years ago–why would I want to dress like her? And who knows what my style will be like in seven years?

There are some trends from my teenage years that I still love–hell, I’d dress like a Delia*s  catalog half the time if I could find that stuff in my size.  And I’m all for having a few timeless pieces, like my favorite little black dress (which, for what it’s worth, was a cheap Target buy at least six or seven years ago and is still in great condition). But the thought of buying clothing for the next seven years sounds stifling.

Smith goes on to list five things to consider when buying, which starts with this:

High fashion has its place, 95% of us do not live in that place. Set aside Hypebeast trends for classic colors, fits, patterns, and heritage pieces: the blue blazer, the tweed sport coat, the brown slim fit dress pant, the selvedge denim, the oxford, durable point collars, the spread collar for when you need it. You may never be the most “fashionable” on the block but you will applaud at your old photos, three years from now.

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Fatshion blog recommendations

On a related note to my last  post, here a few fatshion blogs I’ve discovered recently. I realized that I haven’t updated my blogroll in a while, and I need to do that–and I’m thinking about making a links page instead so it doesn’t clutter up the front of my blog.

In the meantime, check out these blogs:

These Girls Turn Heads
Culture Shocked
Arched Eyebrow
Chubby Guy Swag
Musings of a Curvy Lady
The Busty Traveler
Skittlis Fashion

Are fatshionistas pioneering a deep economy of fashion?

I’ve been doing more thinking about the ethics of fa(t)shion, while also re-reading one of my favorite books: Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future by Bill McKibben.

In it, McKibben argues that our growth-focused global economic system 1.) creates extreme inequality, 2.) is environmentally unsustainable, and 3.) fails to make people happier, because so many people are isolated, stressed out, and lacking community support.

He proposes switching to smaller-scale, community-based systems, and gives examples from all around the world: from the organic farming system that developed in Cuba after the fall of the USSR, to a cooperatively-owned clothing store in Wyoming, to a city bus system in Brazil.

It’s a brilliant, fascinating, hopeful read.

And it got me thinking: are we fatshionistas on the forefront of a new deep economy of clothing?

Lacking more traditional options, we’ve developed community-based means of shopping: from pop-up shops to clothing swaps to rummage events like Boston’s Big Thrifty and New York’s Big Fat Flea.

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